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Rise in pupils unable to swim 25m shows need to support ‘vulnerable’ pools

New data which shows the number of children leaving primary school unable to swim at least 25m has risen is a ‘further reminder’ to the Government of the need to support ‘vulnerable’ pools, says Swim England.

Sport England’s latest Active Lives Children and Young People report shows that 72 per cent of children in Year Seven meet the guidelines to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25m.

This is down four per cent compared to 12 months ago and 6.3 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

While swimming levels increased in the 2021-22 academic year by 12.3 per cent compared with the previous year, they still remained below pre-pandemic figures.

Pools were closed at various stages throughout the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years due to restrictions put in place to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

With pool operators warning they may have to shut facilities due to rising energy costs, Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson called on the Government to provide them with vital financial support to ensure pupils had access to the water.

The Energy Bill Relief Scheme is due to provide financial help to businesses until the end of March 2023 – and the Government is conducting a review on whether it will be extended or not .

An announcement on the outcome of that is expected to be made before the end of the year.

Incredibly important

Swim England launched its #SaveOurPools campaign in a bid to persuade ministers to provide support beyond March 2023 – and Jane said the Active Lives Children and Young People report was a further demonstration of the importance of supporting these facilities.

She said: “While it’s encouraging to see a rise in the number of youngsters going swimming compared with the previous report, this is to be expected as pools were back open following the enforced closures.

“However, pool owners and operators face a new threat with some already shutting their doors for the foreseeable future due to the impact of the cost of living crisis.

“Many primary schools rely on pools in the community to provide swimming lessons to children and with 28 per cent of pupils leaving primary school unable to swim, the future of these facilities is crucial to improving attainment levels.

“The fact the number of youngsters leaving primary school unable to swim at least 25m competently, confidently and proficiently has risen should be a further reminder to the Government of the need to support vulnerable facilities.

“We need to see the number of youngsters being able to swim rising – and they will only be able to do that if they have a pool to learn in.

“It’s incredibly important that the future of facilities is safeguarded so pupils can have access to the water and learn a life-saving skill.”

To sign the #SaveOurPools pools petition before it closes at 5pm on Wednesday 14 December, please click here.